So, anyway, dear readers, I thought that I might tell you about some of the passengers who have their own wheels, so to speak. We often get passengers who have a pushbike and want to travel via bus. Now, here in Canberra most of the buses have a bike rack on the front of the bus which can conveniently carry two bikes. I’ve had the occasional passenger who has no clue about putting the bike on the racks despite the simple instructions printed next to the bike rack. One girl had a bike that was so heavy she could barely lift it, so I asked my helpful and friendly passengers if someone could give her a hand with it, which one of them did most obligingly. The fact that I’d stopped in the middle of a dark street, nowhere near a bus stop, to pick him up probably swayed his decision to leap out and assist the girl with the bike. The fact that she was a bit of a hottie possibly also influenced his decision somewhat.
While driving on the Gold Coast, however, there are no bike racks on the front of the buses and bikes are not allowed inside the bus either for safety reasons. One day I pulled up at a stop and a German girl wanted to get on the bus with her bike. I was only rather new to bus driving at that stage, and she didn’t seem to understand that she could not take the bike on the bus. “Ve can do zis in Chermany” she said to me. So, as the bus was almost empty, I let her wheel the bike through the front door and park it in the wheelchair section. I told her that in the future she would not be able to take the bike on the bus. “Sank you”, she said with a big smile. Thank goodness I didn’t crash or get busy.
Often little kids will get on with those Razor scooters. These aren’t usually a problem unless they ride them up the aisle of the bus. I’ve also had kids who are running late for the school bus zip dangerously across the road in front of the bus and dive through the entrance like Harrison Ford on a good day, making it just as the doors slammed shut behind them.
Another set of wheels I often see on the bus are the granny trolleys. Now, these are a FANTASTIC idea and I actually had a really cute pink striped one of my own, which I loved. My current one is red. Anyway, moving right along… These are great for taking to the shops empty, but when they are filled up and on the way home, they can hold a lot of stuff and get very heavy. I’ve often had passengers have trouble lifting their trolley onto the bus as they had done too much shopping.
More wheels we encounter a lot of on the buses are prams. On the Gold Coast where I used to drive, readers, we would insist on the passengers folding up the prams and stowing them in the luggage racks, and minding the bubs on their laps. Apparently it was safer this way. Here in Canberra, they seem to throw safety out the window and allow the mums to leave the bubs in the prams and strollers. Anyway, one of the regulars on the Gold Coast buses was a woman of Amazonian proportions who had twin toddlers. She wheeled them round in one of those industrial-sized double-barrel strollers which could not be folded up, so it was allowed to remain unfolded on the bus as long as it was parked out of the aisle. When her stop was reached, she would pile the kids back into the stroller and shove it out the door so hard that it became airborne, and then crashed down onto the ground. I’d be surprised if those kids didn’t lose their teeth early from all the jarring and shaking they got from hitting the ground running.
Often there are people in wheelchairs who need to use the bus as their form of transport. Now these passengers can vary considerably. One of my regulars was an African girl called Wendy who was very short and round, and drove herself around in a motorised wheelchair. She was attending one of the local universities. To let the wheelchair onto the bus, firstly I would have to pull up neatly at the curb, open the bus door and secure the vehicle by putting the park brake on and putting it into neutral. I would then kneel the bus down, lowering the floor so the angle of the ramp was not too severe. Then I would have to clamber out of my seat (usually over my bag and coat which was stuffed down the side of my chair), opening the driver’s compartment door. I would then ensure that the seats in the wheelchair designated section of the bus were folded nicely so the passenger could park up out of the aisle.
Once those steps were complete, I would then fold out the hinged ramp to rest it neatly on the footpath, allowing the passenger to wheel themselves up the ramp. If they were in a manual wheelchair I would offer them a push. Then, before I would have a chance to fold the ramp back up or to even say anything, the rest of the passengers would invariably thunder up over the ramp like a herd of bison. I would do my best to stop them and make them wait until I had folded the ramp up again as the ramps were not that strong and while one or two wheelchairs passing over them per day would not break them, a herd of heavy hoofed heifers would definitely limit their lifespan.
Another passenger who I encountered regularly was an old man on a motorised scooter. I would follow the aforementioned steps and he would then wheel in and park himself up in the wheelie section with the seats folded up. The only problem with him, asides from being so bloody heavy I could hear the ramp groaning under his weight, was that he had to reverse out as he could not turn the scooter around. He often got himself stuck on the way out and would have to back and fill quite a few times. I always cringed as I feared he would drive off the edge of the ramp accidently and capsize.
One time, readers, I pulled up at one of the main stops, to spy a wheelchair bound, and muscle-bound, passenger waiting to get on board. I opened the doors and by the time I’d asked him if he would like the ramp lowered, he had said “Nah, mate” and hauled himself on by grabbing the doorhandles and pulling himself up into the bus. “Show off!” I laughed at him. I always asked wheelies which stop they were getting off at to ensure that I pulled up at the stop properly. When I got to his stop, I lined the bus up nicely and, again, before I could even open my mouth, he had scooted out the door, bouncing onto the pavement, calling out “thank you, driver” as he rapidly disappeared down the footpath. I had a big smile on my face for the rest of the day.